Our VoiceNews & Politics

What’s Whale Wars Got To Do With Saving the Planet?


Rebecca Poswolsky • Aug 31, 2010

Animal Planet’s reality show, Whale Wars, featuring a ragtag group of activists trying to save the planet by attacking Japanese whalers, has as much credibility with environmentalists as Jon & Kate have with parenting experts. It’s the green community’s version of Jersey Shore if you will; so preposterous it’s hard to look away.

Paul Watson is the doughy captain and star of the show. To most viewers he’s nothing more than an eccentric animal rights activist. Most people probably consider him harmless (unless you’re hunting whales of course). But there’s a lot more lurking under the façade of this wacky eco-activist.

Watson is severely at odds with environmentalists striving for inclusive solutions to environmental problems.

The outlandish tactics exhibited on the show extend to Watson’s involvement in the environmental movement. As the chair of the Sierra Club from 2003-2006 and founder and president of the Sea Sheppard Conservation Society, Watson has wielded tremendous influence as an environmental leader.

Now, he is leveraging that influence to condemn a renewed effort to make environmentalism more democratic.

This was on full display when Watson shot off a nasty response to fellow environmentalists about the short film The Green War on Immigrants. The film exposes the growing infiltration of the environmental movement by white nationalist forces, and a corresponding pledge provides the opportunity for environmentalists to speak out against it.

In the opening lines of Watson’s reply he states, “The Green War on Immigrants. What war is this? I missed the declaration! Sounds like another round of green bashing rhetoric from the humanist crowd again.”

Guess he won’t be signing the pledge to take a stand against bigotry.

Unfortunately, Watson isn’t alone. There is a segment of the environmental movement that has zeroed in on overpopulation and immigration as the primary causes of environmental degradation and as a result aligned themselves with white nationalists.

In fact, this division was at the heart of a failed hostile takeover attempt within the Sierra Club, and was allegedly the reason Watson left the Club.

Watson was one of three endorsers of an anti-immigrant ballot, formerly referred to as Sierrans for U.S. Population Stabilization (SUSPS), brought before the Sierra Club board in 2002 that was strongly backed by outside anti-immigration groups. Doug Lafollette and Ben Zuckerman, (now vice president of the anti-immigrant group Californians for Population Stabilization) were the other two.  These three, along with their allies, controlled a third of the board at the time. If three more anti-immigration directors were elected to the Board in 2004, the SUSPS faction would have gained effective control of the national organization.

The victory by the Sierra Club stands as an example of successfully countering bigotry in the environmental movement.  Although Watson and his cronies were defeated and the anti-immigrant ballot initiative did not pass, Watson and others have not strayed from their anti-immigration stance.

This was clear in Watson’s reply when he wrote, “What percentage of immigrants are [sic] interested or even involved in ecological movements or organizations?  Hell, what percentage of the overall population is involved?”

If Watson is so concerned about the lack of involvement in ecological movements, why is he wasting his time performing publicity stunts on his reality show (like the time he said he was shot but actually lied about it) instead of advocating for more people to become environmentalists?

It makes sense for the environmental movement to be more inclusive of all peoples; it can only make the movement stronger. So when limelight-addicted individuals like Watson vehemently fight inclusiveness, it points to a disturbing agenda.

Environmentalists who do not agree with the likes of Watson are steering us towards productive discussions about ecological renewal that include all people regardless of where they come from.

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